After assessing the commitment level for each partner, it is imperative to understand if the affair is still happening or if it is over. Couples therapy cannot begin if the affair is not terminated. Exploring how the disclosure occurred gives insight to the degree of the crisis and the extent of deception. Therapists may use several different testing tools to better assess the capacity for care, love, sex, intimacy, justification attitudes, depression, anxiety, mixed emotions, and suicidality. Assessing for acute stress or PTSD features in the betrayed partner is advised.
During the assessment phase of therapy, previous affairs, repetitive patterns, and behaviour need to be explored through sexual and social histories to assess addiction versus culturally-sanctioned affairs. Cybersex, online affairs, and internet addictions also need to be considered when assessing infidelity. During the assessment phase, it’s necessary to understand and explore the courtship phase of the relationship and the evolution of the relationship over time.
When couples come to therapy, the betrayed partner initially wants to know specific information on the affair, such as who, what, where, and especially, when. The betrayed spouse might also focus on why questions. At the early stage of therapy, these types of questions are discouraged, as they only lead to the couple getting stuck and raising the threshold of the couple’s emotions. Encouraging honesty regarding the extent of the extramarital involvement is critical from the beginning of the therapeutic process, but in saying this, specific details of the affair need to be deferred until a later stage of treatment.